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Coyotes’ early goals not enough against McDavid, Oilers

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) shoves Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) off his shot as Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta (32) waits for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes hosted the struggling Edmonton Oilers (19-23-3) on Friday night, looking to earn at least a point for the third straight game on a streak that started before the bye week.

But in their return from that break, Arizona got off to what looked to be a promising start: two quick goals in the game’s opening minutes that prompted an Edmonton goalie change — but it wasn’t enough. The Coyotes lost, 4-2.

“We beat ourselves, didn’t have many chances. Same song and dance. A couple guys giving the puck away and it’s in our net,” head coach Rick Tocchet said, later adding that his team did a good job of settling in after its errors.

Perhaps those errors were due to the fact that Arizona (10-28-6) hadn’t played since last Saturday, though, the Coyotes did come out of the gate flying.

“You get a little rusty,” Tocchet said. “I thought the first 10 [minutes], we were great. Then we made a couple miscues. We gave them those goals, and then we settled in. The second period, they only had two or three chances.”

Indeed, the pace and tone of the game fluctuated.

It was just 2:03 into the game that a shot ricocheted off the crossbar and right to Brad Richardson, who buried a shot past Oilers netminder Cam Talbot. Right away, it was 1-0 Coyotes.

Then, at 3:17, Christian Dvorak was left on his own at the side of the Oilers net, allowing him to feed a pass across the crease to Josh Archibald, who scored on the one-timer. 2-0 Coyotes.

Oilers head coach Todd McLellan went to Al Montoya to relieve Talbot in net for the rest of the game. But it was Connor McDavid — not Talbot — and the rest of the Oilers’ elite forwards who created the chances that eventually earned Edmonton a win.

“McDavid’s a hell of a player,” Tocchet said. “He was the difference in the game.”

An odd-man rush generated by Edmonton’s foot speed eventually led to a one-timer chance, on which the Oilers whiffed. But that same possession set up defenseman Darnell Nurse, who fired a shot from the left circle to make it 2-1 at 14:16 in the first period.

Minutes later, McDavid dangled around Alex Goligoski to pass off to Oscar Klefbom, who then set up Patrick Maroon for an Oilers goal. With 38 seconds to go in the first period, it was 2-2.

“You’ve got to protect the house, you’ve got to protect the middle,” Tocchet said of why Arizona gave up the highlight-reel goal that McDavid generated. “We lost Maroon in front. If we tie up his stick, there’s no goal.”

The second period had a much slower pace, resulting in only five shots on goal for each team. In the third, Nurse scored his second goal of the game to give Edmonton its first lead of the game, a 3-2 advantage at 3:57.

An empty-netter from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made it 4-2, the game’s final score.

“The start that we had was really great, we did everything that we wanted to,” Archibald said. “I think we just tried to be too pretty, got away from our systems and the way we were supposed to play, and they kind of just took it to us.”

LOOSE PUCKS

–Friday was Richard Panik’s first game with the Coyotes after he came over in the Anthony Duclair trade from Chicago. He took an offensive zone penalty in the first period — the Coyotes’ only penalty of the game — and played 16:39 of ice time with one shot on goal.

–Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson played Friday for the first time since he suffered an injury on Nov. 28. He was paired with Jakob Chychrun and skated for 19:53 with three blocked shots.

“It’s been a frustrating time for me, come to a new team and being out for a while when you want to contribute and show what you could do,” Hjalmarsson said. “You want to help the team as much as you can. I’m pretty excited to be back and have a game tomorrow already. Hopefully we can have a more solid effort tomorrow.”

UP NEXT

The ‘Yotes head to San Jose to play the Sharks (21-13-6) on Saturday night. Then, both teams come back to Arizona to face each other once again on Tuesday.

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